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Syria calls off visit from head of Arab League

From Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, CNN
Arab League Secretary General Nabil Al Araby as seen in July before his first press conference at the Arab League in Cairo.
Arab League Secretary General Nabil Al Araby as seen in July before his first press conference at the Arab League in Cairo.
  • Arab League secretary general was to deliver proposals to Syrian president on Wednesday
  • The document was a set of proposals for ending the crackdown on protesters
  • Secretary general's office says Syria has not provided an alternative date

(CNN) -- Citing unspecified "circumstances beyond our control," Syria on Tuesday canceled a scheduled visit by the head of the Arab League, who was to deliver a set of proposals for ending the government's crackdown on protesters who are calling for political reform.

Secretary General Nabil Al Araby had been commissioned by the Arab League to deliver a 13-point document to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad outlining the 22-nation organization's plans to bring an end to the crackdown. He was to have arrived in Damascus on Wednesday.

"Syria has asked Arab League Secretary General Nabil Al Araby to delay his visit to Damascus due to circumstances beyond our control," the official SANA news agency said, adding that Al Araby had been "informed of those circumstances and a new date will be set for his visit."

Al Araby's Cairo office confirmed that the "trip has been postponed with no alternative date on the request of the Syrians."

Syria has been engulfed in public protest for months, and the regime has been accused internationally of a crackdown on peaceful demonstrators. A spokesman for a Syrian opposition group based in Egypt said he sees this effort for a peaceful solution "as the last attempt by the Arab League before an international intervention."

The proposals included "the withdrawal of the army from the Syrian streets, release of all the prisoners detained during the revolt and the beginning of an open dialogue toward real political reforms," Mohamed Al Zeibaq, spokesman for the Coalition of Free Syrians, said from Cairo.

The document also proposed that Assad conduct parliamentary elections by the end of the year and presidential elections by the year 2014, Al Zeibaq said.

The United Nations has reported more than 2,200 people killed in Syria since February, including more than 350 people since security forces stepped up operations against demonstrators during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

According to the opposition Local Coordinating Committees of Syria (LCCS), at least 2,824 people (civilians and security forces) have been killed and their names documented so far since the Syrian uprising started in March.

CNN cannot independently verify these claims, because the Syrian government has repeatedly denied requests for journalists to report inside Syria.

The violence claimed 10 more lives on Tuesday, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, including five whose bodies were found in the Homs neighborhoods of Souk al Hashish and Hamam al Pasha earlier in the morning. Two died in an attack on the Bayda neighborhood, also in Homs; two were shot to death at a military checkpoint in the industrial area of Ristun; another was killed in the Damascus suburb of Zmelka.

Officials do not usually comment on opposition allegations concerning the killing or wounding of protesters.

The Arab League last week publicly called for restraint and an end to the violence in Syria.

U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford on Tuesday called into question Damascus' capability to enact "the deep, genuine and credible reforms" demanded by opposition protesters.

In a sharply worded letter posted on the embassy's Facebook page, Ford voiced his support for what he called the "courage" shown by demonstrators and slammed the killings of unarmed civilians protesting peacefully.

Read more about the U.S. ambassador's letter

The International Committee of the Red Cross on Monday was granted access to a detention facility in Syria for the first time since unrest broke out in the country, the committee's president said after meeting with Assad.

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